Leah Kaplan: Dermatopathology Research – Internship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Joan Guitart, a dermatopathologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Guitart is the director of the Cutaneous Lymphoma clinic at Northwestern, simultaneously studying diseases on the spectrum of cutaneous lymphomas — lymphomas that affect cutaneous tissue. His projects focus on a variety of subjects within the field of cutaneous lymphomas such as improving the accuracy of diagnoses of the disease, as well as the effective treatment and containment of the disease. Dr. Guitart has also authored numerous articles in major journals.

Over the course of the summer, I worked closely with Dr. Estela Martinez-Escala, M.D., Ph.D, Dr. Guitart’s clinical research associate at Northwestern. She and I worked together analyzing data, and writing and editing articles for publications. Two projects I worked on included a study focused on cutaneous lymphoproliferative disorders in children, and a second project that explored T-cell clonality within the spectrum of mycosis fungoides, a specific type of cutaneous lymphoma.

On clinic days, I attended Cutaneous Lymphoma clinic with Dr. Martinez, Dr. Guitart, and the other attending and resident physicians. I especially enjoyed the patient contact in this setting, since I came to understand how the work I was helping with applied to real patients in the clinical setting.

Needless to say, I had the most incredible experience this summer. I am an aspiring physician, and am currently in the process of applying to medical school, with the hope to begin next fall. The process of data collection and interpretation, coupled with the experience of interacting with patients on clinic days, allowed me to develop a new perspective of healthcare. Taking part in searching for methods of prevention or potential cures for diseases has inspired me even more to become a physician.

This internship gave me insight into the lives and responsibilities of physicians, who also participate in clinical research. Working at Northwestern with such brilliant, qualified physicians, I was able to gain clinical research exposure, thus expanding my knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of clinical research. Though the research was a major part of my experience, my end goal is to become a practicing physician. My position at Northwestern also incorporated patient interaction in the clinical aspect. These experiences were inspiring to me as a future doctor, and proved to be an equally enriching experience as the research.

I am forever grateful to the generosity of the Newcomb-Tulane College that made my completion of this internship possible. I hope that Tulane students will continue to take advantage of this incredible program that makes possible opportunities that enhance our classroom educations here at Tulane, as well as deepen our appreciation for the world around us.

Written by Leah Kaplan, Dean’s Grant recipient, 2017